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Your Business

News/Business. A focus on issues facing small business in the United States.

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Google 5, Us 5, Ramon 4, Schaefer 4, J.j. Ramberg 2, U.s. 2, Puck 2, Ken Gridswold 1, Steve Weissman 1, Jansen 1, Griswold 1, Jay Schaefer 1, Michael Jansen 1, Blogging 1, Jeff Hassen 1, Brian Hallagan 1, Sandler 1, Kurt Abramson 1, Darren Babbit 1, Justine Ariaga 1,
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  MSNBC    Your Business    News/Business. A focus on issues  
   facing small business in the United States.  

    October 27, 2012
    2:30 - 3:00am PDT  

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hi there, everyone. i'm j.j. ramberg. welcome to "your business." the show dedicated to giving you
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tips and advice to help your small business grow. it is hard to keep up with technology. every time you turn around, there is a new social network or marketing tool or back end system that's designed to help you get more customers or be more efficient in the way you run your business. that is why today's show is dedicated to everything denlg tall. we went to the digital expo to get a handle on the latest trends that will help your business stay on track. ♪ i'm the operator for my pocket calculator. >> when it comes to technology, things are moving fast. recently, some of the world's biggest brands and the tech startup companies gathered and collaborated on how to keep up. >> the expectation of having instant access is allowing people to be a little bit more adapting to new technologies or forms of communication than ever before. >> according to kurt abramson,
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ceo of "share this," a company that provides sharing info on websites, the biggest change is how people shop. people go to stores to look and get a sense of the experience and then they go home and they actually buy it online where they think they can get a better price. 45% of americans have bought something through a mobile app on their phone. >> for jeff hassen, chief marketing office of hip cricket, a mobile marketing and advertising company, this means it is more important than ever to go to the customer. >> we have gone from a passive activity of interacting with the world to an interactive activity where what we are able to do with a tablet or mobile devise is respond, vote, ask for more information, get a link, get more stats, depending on the industry. the smart brands are giving consumers the ability to interact with them. >> search has somewhat leveled the playing ground so that small businesses can compete with the big guys but search engine op
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tim zation expert, darren babbit says, only if you are being smart and taking control of the way search engines perceive your websites. >> a lot of people are still trying to use techniques that really were good ten years ago. for instance, you might go and draft a page where you use your keywords over and over and over again. ten, 15 years ago, that absolutely worked. today, two years from now, five years from now, these methods are antiquated. they do not work. the best thing to do is to focus on your contents. content is king. >> george gill, ceo and founder of gills solutions management, shared the importance of using analytics to focus limited resources on what actually works. >> if i am going to do search engine optimization to drive traffic to my site, what's going to be the one matrick that's going to prove that this is working to me? then you want to go into analytics and figure out how you
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can measure that. never do a thing online unless you are measuring it. if you are going to spend one penny and you are not measuring it, you are in the right place, las vegas. you might as well gamble. >> being intentional about everything you do online is also something mark senacola, president and ceo of banner view.com stresses. >> it is not just about digital or offline strategy. you have to have an integrated strategy to get the most benefit. viral marketing is one of those ways you can do that. at the same time, it is not just about posting that crazy cat video. it is more about bringing it into the real world and how you can meld those two together to get the most success for your campaign. >> with a lot on the agenda, more was covered than admittedly, most of us can wrap our heads around. overall, the conference also came with a warning. when you are delving into the digital world, be knowledgeable. >> education is key. whether or not you're educating
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yourself or send a couple of your staff in and whether that be trade shows, digital marketing trade shows or whether that be meet-ups, you have to get involved and you have to rub elbows with the people who know for you to get ahead of the space. >> one big takeaway from the experts, if you are still using some technologies from two years ago, you may be in trouble. we have a power trio of experts on this topic this week. ramon ray is the editor of smallbiztechnology.com. a company that shows small businesses how they can use technology to grow. riva lasonski, the founder and ceo of grow biz media. a company specializing in coverage of small businesses and entrepreneurship. and brian hallagan is the cofounder and ceo of hub spot, a marketing company. i had not seen that cat video before. that is funny. i somehow missed that one. brian, i wanted to start with you to ask you something about seo. seo used to be sort of the holy grail.
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if you could figure out seo. is it still as important as it used to be? >> i think it is still very important. the way i sort of think about it is the real shift in the way humans sort of live and shop and learn. people spend a lot of time on google but they also spend a lot of time on facebook and their mobile phone. seo is still a big part of it. you need to do well in social media. they start to look as a signal as to whether you are worthy of ranking for different terms. >> that goes back to social media and providing some sort of content which is something ramon, you talk about all the time. >> it's essential. i think as small business owners, i tell them, you have to be publishers. it is no longer good enough to make that widget, make that shirt and ship is it off. you have to be publishers and produce your own content, not like msnbc is doing. in a small way, start producing content. >> put it on your site or your social media, everywhere.
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>> i say put it everywhere. it is no longer just me talking to somebody out there. it is getting people to talk about you and to get them doing that. that's essential. >> it is a whole integrated approach. the problem is, your small business, the wearer of many hats, it is now a new hat you have to wear. it is like you are gone and there is something else that you have to do while like ramon says, you still need to make your product. you still need to perform your service. now, here is a new thing that you have to create. you have to come up with really easy ways to get it done or you are just going to be overwhelmed and your business, itself, is going to suffer. >> it was interesting what they are saying about analytics. don't do anything without measuring. that is the beauty of the web, you can pretty much measure everything. brian, we are small businesses. you have to figure out what analytics company to work with and what it is you want to analyze and how much it is going to cost. what do you do with the information that you should be measuring everything? >> i totally agree with that
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comment that you should measure everything. the problem with print and with newspaper adds and even television stuff, it is darn hard to figure out whether it is working or not. everything you do in twitter and facebook and linked in and google is highly immeasurable. there are lots of easy ways to measure stuff. mere mortals can figure this out. you don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure these analytics out and figure out your return on invest. >> where do i start? >> it is very easy to do. one, google. the most famous and long standing, google analytics. you can know how many mobile users are coming to your website. you can know on publishing this content, should you focus on mobile users or website users. point two. i will give a name, a company
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called delv.it. they will send to you which social networks are sending the most information. go to twitter or go to facebook. you can start simple and easy. >> what about analyzing your site. i want to make something blue or red. i want to put up this message or this product. i'm assuming you should analyze all that stuff as well. >> you should. i wouldn't want to get the viewers too wrapped up in analytics. the basic simple things people should do is create a ton of content. i sort of think the currency of the u.s. economy is the u.s. dollar. the currency of the internet is links. it can create remarkable, interesting content. you will pull people in and turn your website into a hub on the internet. i wouldn't go crazy with analytics. the things i would want to look at is how many visitors am i getting per channel, how many leads and how many customers. >> thanks so much, you guys.
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small business owners should continually be learning new skills to address all of the challenges that pop up around the way. here are five mobile apps that provide an inexpensive and convenient way to train yourself as you run your changing business courtesy of practicalecommerce.com. a cisco webex meeting center app offers hundreds of educational webinars. the majority are business related. there are also ones on subjects like health and fitness. two, learning to-go's mobile app incorporates tests, flash cards and tests in their training series an cover a wide range of business concepts. number three, lynda.com's iphone apps provides video library videos. four, skill pill is a free app to view two-minute business training videos. topics include everything from
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strategy in marketing to operations and technology. number five, sandler training iphone app is a supplement to its training courses. it can be used as a stand-alone business tool. the app offers tips on sales and leadership development. small business retailers are going to be left in the dust if they don't start thinking about mobile payments. consumers are starting to turn to digital ways of paying for their purchases. ramon is back with us to get us up to speed on these new payment devices. hi, ramon, again. i have started to see these around. as a small business owner, how important is it that i use one of them right now and explain how they work in general? >> first of all, i think it is very important. not all consumers are ready to use mobile solutions now but i think it is important to be ahead of the curve. these are three devices that are dongle based. here, square, intoo it and dogle based. the differences are the payments
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that you will make. >> so, basically, i just attach this to an iphone around it is a credit card slide? >> that's exactly what it is. this is $275 per year for up to $250,000 worth of credit card payments. that's my square. >> are the prices sort of the same? >> prices are similar but different. that's the big differentiation. intuit is $13 per month and you pay 1.7 percentage points per credit card transaction and the customers services and features. >> this is sold through at&t and this is called the apropay, $13 per month with a transaction fee. these two are similar. square went a different route with an annual fee. >> you have to do the math and see which makes more sense. >> yes, that's right. >> somebody was telling me there are some hidden fees that you have to look for. >> you can in a way. that's correct. it is not just dollars for dollars. you know some. the credit card companies involved. the banks are involved. so you have a lot of different vendors that want a slice of that money. >> why should you get mobile payment versus whatever you are using right now? >> great question.
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it is important because in this case, let's pretend you are here with this device. let's say you are selling your cupcakes at a fair. well, you don't have to tell people, sorry, i can't accept credit cards. you now can. that's what these devices are for. >> would you suggest using it in your bakery as well? >> i think you can. i'm a technologist and a practicalist. if you have a regular point of sale machine, use it. these are great when you are in the field on the go for sure. >> this level up is an entirely different thing. how does this work? >> this is cool. this is not for the small business in the field. this is the small business owner that says, i have a lot of young people. a lot of people that want to use an app to pay for my business. this is where this comes in. the retailer is kind of on this side. this is actually kind of your cash register, as it were. the customer is coming over here. they take their phone and they have their level of app. they hold it in front of the device. the merchant is here and the transaction is done. you have your phone. you put it here and you pay for the item just like that. >> where do the fees come in for the merchant? >> this is very interesting.
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this device is free. they give you this and the phone for free. where level-up makes its money is on campaigns. they want you to say j.j. come into high store five times and get $10 off. that's where level-up will charge you about 40 cents on the dollar for a campaign. >> you do have to get enough people to start using it to make it worth it. >> chances are, you may be one of the early adopters if you have something like this. >> right. >> but there are some real conveniences. >> let's keep in mind, starbucks just talked about how to deal with the square. definitely, the curve or the wave is growing, that's for sure. >> what's this little thing here? >> i wanted to show you this, j.j., because we are talking about mobility out in the field with these devices. this gives you mobile wireless. if you are in the field, you have to have wi-fi or some wireless connectivity. you turn this on and you have your hot spot right in your hand.
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>> it is so little and light. how much does that cost? >> this can cost about $50 per month. some may say it is a lot the. >> it is not a lot if you are at a fair and you are selling cupcakes and you need to be online. thanks ramon. i have wanted to do this segment for a long time. i have been seeing these devices out there. i really appreciate it. >> thank you. >> our focus on digital entrepreneurship continues. our panel of experts will answer your small business questions about marketing through social media, including how not to tip-off your competitors by what you put online. and, it is a question we get all of the time, how do i monetize my blog. find out how these entrepreneurs who build tiny houses discovered there was money to be made by blogging about them. on every one of our cards there's a date. a reminder... that before this date, we have to exceed expectations.
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we have to find new ways to help make life easier, more convenient and more rewarding. it's the reason why we don't have costumers. we have members. american express. welcome in. when somebody out there offers to help your business, take advantage of this. how? this tip comes from justine ariaga, the founder of program and a good friend of mine. she says, when somebody offers to help, you have to give them three really specific ways they can help you. why? a, this makes it easy for them. they don't have to think about what you need. your telling them. b, it makes it so they are not going to offer you help you don't need which could put you in a pretty uncomfortable situation. c, by giving them three things,
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it ups the chances they will be able to deliver on one of them. so, it's your business. tip number 148, arm people with specific ways to help you. we've talked a lot on this show about the benefits of blogging to enhance your company. here is a twist on that. with a little bit of innovation and hard work, that blog can become the business itself. that's what some california-based entrepreneurs did. what are they blogging about? tiny houses. >> in 1999, i built my first tiny house and moved in and have been living small ever since. >> house builder, jay schaefer, believes in a simple lifestyle. he lived in a self-built house smaller than some people's closets. >> this is what i call the great room. i do most of my work at the desk. on this side of the great room,
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i've got the entertainment area. >> he loves sharing his vision with visitors, both in person and on his blog called tumbleweedtinyhomes. on the other side michael jansen is simplifying his lifestyle. he is building an even smaller house, using discarded wooden pallets. like schaefer, jansen publishes a blog called tiny house designs. while retaining their idealism, they each have found ways for their blogs to generate income. >> this year, we haven't sold a single house but more plans than ever. >> after last year's housing bust, schaefer and his partner, steve weissman, don't build houses anymore. instead, they are building their website. >> we made this huge shift in our whole philosophy how we were going to survive as a business. we changed from selling houses
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to selling plans and workshops and books to the do it yourself market. >> they are not alone. >> i started the blog more as a hobby than anything. >> ken gridswold started blogging for profit when he was laid off last year. >> i took that opportunity to spend more time learning more about blogging. >> there are lots of ways to make money with a blog. often, they are not tied directly to the blog itself. >> through their blogs with small scale living, these four have become friends. today, they have gathered at schaefer's bungalow to exchange advice on modernizing their blogs. >> the e-mail you sent me the other day about ewords. >> that was hilarious. >> they say the easiest way to start is with google-supplied adds. each time a blog visitor clicks on an ad, google's advertisers pay the blogger a small fee. >> you don't have to have a large site to have them. >> you can sign up for google
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ads making $25, $35 a month. once you hit a certain amount of traffic, it took off. >> griswold says he now makes around $100 a month from google ads. so it can't be the only source of advertising revenue. >> schaefer and was man say selling products, like their own bookings and plans is the more important part. steve operates the blog and website, while jay, the idea guy, comes up with new products to sell. >> the three biggest things are selling plans, books and workshops. all three are pretty equal. you sell somebody else's product and you get usually a percentage. >> while they may be competitors, these blogpreneurs say that cooperation and link between the sites is another factor. >> if ken sells one of my plans, he makes a commission. the combined websites are all generating all of this traffic. it really amplifies and benefits us all in a business way, better
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than if we were fighting against each other as competitors. >> looking at blogs this way, they have clearly moved beyond their soap box for load mouth's image. for these four do it yourself entrepreneurs, blogging for traffic allows them to fund their passion and fuel their dreams. >> it is very scalable. if you hit it big, you hit it big and it doesn't really take any more work. you don't have to hire a team of people to make this happen. it is time to answer your business questions. riva and brian are with us once again. the first question comes from debbie. she writes, how do you utilize social media to market your business without giving away to your competitors who your wholesalers and vendors are? that's an interesting question, brian. you don't actually need to say anything about your vendors. you shouldn't be saying anything about them, right? >> i don't think you do.
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i think managers have a hard enough time convincing their staff that their ideas are good, never mind their competitors. in this case, i recommend more yoga and relaxation therapy and get out there and publish your way to success. get on it. >> the whole point of social media is to engage with your customers, so they will buy more from you. i don't know why you would be revealing where you are getting your products from. there is no connection there. >> there is no reason to. she doesn't have to worry about it, because there is absolutely no reason to talk about this. talk about the benefits of your product or something else interesting. >> it doesn't matter where it comes from. your customers don't really care. >> let's go to the next question. this is about whether to pay or not to pay for social media. >> i do use social media but all the free versions. i have never paid for marketing or exposure. would spending a small amount of money provide a greater return for my dollar?
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>> there are different places to spend money. you could do a facebook ad or hire someone to do something for you. >> i saw this survey that said, most people that use facebook, most small businesses are not buying facebook ads, but of the ones that are, less than 25%, over 60% of them said it was successful and they would do it again. it is farrell cheirly cheap. don't spend a ton of money. see what you get back. if it works, invest more. >> brian, is there any place where you should be spending money? >> it is much more about the width of your brain than the width the of your wallet. >> i am tired of being interrupted with these ads, whether it is on facebook or google. you should flip it on to ted and create lots of content and use that to pull people in.
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speaking of traditional advertising, the role about print in a social media dominated world. >> i do some print marketing that i find to be very beneficial for my business. i am not seeing a ton of tracks from it. how do i know whether my print media is working and what is the role of print media now in a social media dominated environment. >> he says, i find it to be very beneficial. how do i find if it is working? >> the fact that he can see it. a lot of times it is the ego you pick up the local newspaper or magazine and there is your ad. you feel good about it. there are ways. there are magazines. if you hint that you are willing to advertise more, you can ask them to perform a special survey of the readers to see if they recalled your ad, they do a post and after publication. if you want to know, you have to put a code in. you have to have some kind of -- whether it is an 800 number or
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some kind of thing, there has to be a code there so you can track it. otherwise, you just won't know. there's no way. >> is there any place, brian, for small businesses where you can track every dollar and see your return on it. if you don't have a big budget, should you spend any money on traditional media? >> i wouldn't. i'm a wayne gretzky fan and there's a famous quote where somebody asked him, why, wayne, are you so much better than the other hockey players? i skate where the puck is going. everyone else skates where the puck is. that's the case with marketing. the reason print business is shrinking, it's hard to track it. i think of my dad versus myself. my dad read a lot of newspapers and magazines, got a lot of mail every day. i don't do that. i'm on my cell phone. i'm on the internet, twitter, facebook. the way people live, shop and
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learn is changing. print is less and less relevant. if i were a small business with little time, that's not where i would spend it. >> mike writes, i am releasing an app that lets users rate drivers. this app can be used all over the world. i would like to ask the show, you guys, how to market the app to drivers. >> it's word of mouth. i'm going to contradict what i said before, one thing i always read is my aaa magazine. in california it's called "west ways." it's content i don't get anywhere else. it takes me 15 minutes to read it. it's pr. it's unique to get where the drivers are reading and looking at. maybe they will write about you. word of mouth takes it from there. >> there's a lot of good content to get the word out. >> definitely. if i were this person, there's a revolution going on in this industry called uber.
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love uber when i go to new york city and i am the at the corner of street "x" and "y" and i can't find a cab. i type in my address and wham, i have a black car picking me up. i can trace how close they are or where they are. if i were this person, i would say how can i partner with uber to rate their drivers. i think that's the way to go. >> thank you so much for your advice. it's fun to talk about technology. we hope we do another show like this soon. if any of you have a question for our panel, go to our website. our address is openforum.com/yourbusiness. there, just hit the ask the show link to submit a question for our panel. again, the website is openforum.com/yourbusiness. or, if you would rather, e-mail us your questions and comments. the address is yourbusiness@msnbc.com. i'm guessing a lot of you use e maple as a marketing tool.
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do you wish you had a way of keeping them from spam or loading incorrectly in a customer's inbox? if so, check out this website. emailonacid.com gives you a preview of what it looks like. then you'll be given tips on how to improve the message to avoid spam filters and have e-mails displayed properly on every platform. to learn more about today's show, click on our website, it's openforum.com/yourbusiness. you'll find all of today's segments plus web exclusive content to help your business grow. you can follow us on twitter@msnbcyourbiz. become a fan on facebook. we love that. next week, we'll get lessons in the fine art of separating
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people from their money. >> first, they are looking at my costume. while they are doing that, they are listening to what i'm saying. now i have them hooked. >> marketing lessons from a veteran carnival pitchman and performer. until then, i'm j.j. ramberg. remember, we make your business our business. we make a simple thing. a thing that helps you buy other things. but plenty of companies do that. so we make something else. we help make life a little easier, more convenient, more rewarding, more entertaining. year after year. it's the reason why we don't have customers. we have members. american express. welcome in.